A couple of days ago, we went to Fethiye market to buy some yufka. Over the years, we’ve developed a love of cooking and have stopped buying many of the ready prepared goodies from the shelves and deli counters. You’d be amazed how much money it’s saved us, too. We’ve posted some of our recipes for home made dips such as antep ezmesi (a Turkish spicy tomato dip), cacık (refreshing yoghurt and cucumber) and hummus, amongst others. If we’re responsible for what goes into these creations, we can’t complain if the taste isn’t quite right!
However, there are some things in the world of Turkish Cuisine that are best left to those who know exactly what they’re doing – the expert – the yufkacı. I am truly grateful to all those skilful Turkish people who produce the countless sheets of yufka (such as the lady at Fethiye market) for people like me to use, eat and enjoy. Yufka truly is wonderful stuff.
This Turkish börek dish is made up from pleasant börek eating experiences we’ve enjoyed while being in Turkey. At Fethiye otogar, I once had a small, coiled börek with a cheese and parsley filling. I’d never seen börek presented like this before and I loved the pattern the coils made. Last month in Istanbul, I had perhaps my favourite börek experience when I had a hot, spinach-filled pastry for breakfast. Chillies galore! So this spicy cheese and spinach pastry is based on those experiences.
Turkish Recipe For Spinach & Cheese Börek
First of all, grease a large baking tray and prepare your ingredients for the filling. How much you prepare depends on how big you want your börek to be. Mine finished up around 40cm in diameter.
- Chop an onion and a handful of chillies (if you’re going the spicy route) and fry them gently for a few minutes.
- Roughly chop around 250g of spinach and once the onion is nicely softened, add the spinach, salt, pepper and a generous sprinkling of paprika.
- Once the spinach is wilted, take the pan from the heat and let the mixture cool down.
- When the mixture is cool, add 3 or 4 handfuls of börek cheese and stir it all together. (Crumbled feta cheese will suffice if you can’t get börek cheese.)
How To Roll Your Börek
Now it’s time to start the fun bit. In Turkey, yufka is made in rather large round sheets of around half a metre in diameter. You need three of these. Yufka is a slightly thicker version of phyllo pastry. I have never worked with phyllo pastry so if you are using it, you need to judge how many sheets you need to use and you may have to double them up.
- First of all, beat an egg and mix a glug of olive oil into it.
- Take a sheet of yufka and cut it in half.
- Place it on a flat surface with the curved end away from you and brush some of the egg mixture around the curved edge.
- Take 3 or 4 heaped teaspoons of your spicy cheese and spinach mixture and place it about an inch above the flat edge of your yufka. Thin the mixture out so it lines end to end.
- Start to roll the yufka (carefully) and keep going until you have a long thin sausage shape.
- Transfer it to your greased baking try and form a coil, brushing with the egg to help it to stick together.
- Take the other half of the yufka sheet and repeat the steps. All you do now is keep rolling and brushing and coiling until you run out of room on your baking tray.
- Preheat the oven to around 200 degrees and bake your fantastic creation for 20 minutes or until it looks golden.
Either serve it straight away or eat it cold. We’ve enjoyed the best of both worlds as we’ve had the leftovers for lunch.
If you’re in Turkey, use the freshest yufka you can get your hands on. Don’t use the vacuum packed variety as it dries out as soon as you open the packet and you won’t be able to roll it without it cracking.
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